Childhood books were so dark – they would make your heart sink


Outdoor lunch seems such a nice simple idea. Until they tell you they can definitely take your Friday reservation.

No problem. Three weeks later. Even when a second restaurant accepts a reservation, it’s so early that it’s almost breakfast time.

Parking near a restaurant with outdoor lunches? Great as long as you’re willing to walk 10 miles in four inch heels.

But – as is the case in any of our cities – the pain is lessened by discovering as you progress that a famous writer or painter has lived in a house that you walk past.

You must love these quietly interesting plaques.

In the UK, English Heritage is the organization that attaches such plaques – in blue – to mark famous people’s homes or workspaces. Including Enid Blyton.

Last week, they updated their information online about him to suggest that if they could, they would hit kango his blue plaques on whatever walls they are on.

“Blyton’s work was criticized during his lifetime and after for its racism, xenophobia and lack of literary merit,” they say, mentioning The little black doll, where Sambo’s character is accepted once his “ugly black face” is washed “cleansed” by the rain.

The disapproval of English Heritage was cast aside by the criticism which caused epic problems for my father with my mother when I was still young enough to be read every night. He did the reading.

The only time he hesitated about my selection was when, three days in a row, I wanted Noddy and Big Ears.

Noddy, my father nodded aloud, was a small moan.

This opinion was made within earshot of my mother, who went mad at him polluting the sensitivity of her four-year-old with such a word.

He defended himself using that often flawed defense against a libel charge: that it was true.

Unimportant, my mother sniffed, her horror assuring me that I remember the phrase forever and, after thinking about it a little, even at four years old, conceded that it was an exact summons from Noddy.

It was a little whimper and it still is, because he never left, you know. He still sells thousands of copies each year. I think it’s the car.

If I ever win the lottery, I’m going to get a Noddy car made.

Besides the little character with the bell in his hat and his co-addictive relationship with Big Ears, Enid Blyton was tolerated in our home and thousands of others because of his genius at serving the needs of pre-teens.

It got her to voice her past critiques in her time, although at the time racism and elitism were rushed to cover by librarians and teachers to find her of no literary value.

These critiques which she herself presented as “the struggle that helps you so much, that gives you determination, character, autonomy – all things that help in any profession or profession, and most certainly in writing “.

Due to the plaque issue, I thought it appropriate to take a look at an annual Monster Enid Blyton from the 1950s that I kept for nostalgic reasons.

Every story, from the dog chained up outside on cold nights to the messy boy who buys a spell to solve his problem, has turned out to be a heavy lesson in tidying up, sharing and not mouthing. to Mom.

Your heart would sink into you as one character after another is humiliated, publicly mocked, impoverished, or starved to prove them wrong and urge them to remorse.

Maybe Noddy was a premonitory little hoor. He could see what was happening to him on the tracks and received his complaints first.

But when I browsed the shelves of other volumes of lovingly preserved children’s literature, I found Blyton in the ha’penny corner.

To dive into a single random fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm is to step into a world of poverty and sadism.

Hans Christian Andersen – a really weird dude who as a guest drove Charles Dickens half-mad – produced hardly less terrifying stories. The ugly Duckling was an exception.

And where do you leave the other weird dude who took shady pictures of little girls and wrote Alice in Wonderland/ Alice through the looking glass, which were (and perhaps still are) bought by well-meaning people to annoy generations of children in the belief that anything that drags on for so long should be considered literature?

Of course, they were popular back then. Public hanging too.

Of course, we are now in a much more enlightened time when children’s books avoid bad things and promote self-esteem and humor in the little ones.

Or so you might believe if you haven’t met Dreadful Henry. Dreadful Henry is a series of dozens of thin volumes of distilled wickedness with assorted illustrations, filled with food (the characters stuff themselves with junk food all the time) pranks involving physical injury or public humiliation, stereotypes and caricatures.

They are very popular. The first one Dreadful Henry you read to a toddler is subversive and transgressive and the child thinks it’s a sneaky riot.

The second one you read leaves a brassy taste in your mouth and has you wrap the box and drop it off at a charity shop.

While you’re at it, also drop any Roald Dahl books that you have around you.

He wasn’t just a weird guy, he was a weird and mean guy whose children’s books, even after being put away and rewritten by several publishers, nonetheless demonstrate page after page his hostility towards women and his particular hatred. old women.

Even a short sample of the books that took us through childhood would make you wonder why we are not even more special than we really are.

Even the bloody Aesop, revisited, makes Noddy a barrel of laughs.

His fables are another dose of moral reward or retribution, denigrating every sunny, reckless, and risk-taking trait while praising a lackluster stagecoach, like the tortoise who wins the race he has with the hare. The moral lesson, in this case, being “slow and steady wins the race.” No, this is not the case. No, really, really not.

Now Aesop had an excuse. He was a slave and if he hadn’t made up a series of stories to entertain his owner, there was a good chance he would be sent to an asbestos mine.

So he imagined these little parables of good behavior and they’ve walked their tedious paths through the centuries, appearing in bright primary colored boxes to put today’s toddlers on the right path.

Until Richard Scarry arrived, what we read to children was mean, brutal, racist, sexist, elitist, and – those dead princesses worshiped in glass coffins – just questionable.

Right now – with works like The boy, the mole, the fox and the horse, with its spectacularly beautiful illustrations – is the golden age of children’s literature.


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